Ah, social media. Do you love it? Do you hate it?
If you’re anything like me, it’s a bit of both. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but – despite being completely infuriating at times – it’s somehow difficult to completely let go of that little blue app.
More and more of my friends and family are stepping away from Facebook. It’s not just the creepy monitoring and selling of personal data. It’s the oversharing, the drama, the attention-seeking tedium and the pure pointlessness of seeing what your ex-colleague is eating for lunch. Not to mention the misery of comparing your gritty real life to someone else’s sugar-coated, heavily-filtered highlights reel.
Argh, isn’t it just SO annoying sometimes? And yet we can’t stop scrolling through that newsfeed.
But it’s not all bad news. There are lots of good things about social media. And there’s more to social media than just Facebook.
Social media allows us to share content, opinions and experiences with the whole world – instantly! In the past, this was virtually impossible. It wasn’t quick or easy to get a publishing deal via traditional routes. But now anyone can set up a social media page and start posting right away. What’s more, the communication is instant and shared to a global audience.
This means it’s easy to spread new information quickly. Let’s take the example of essential oil brands – recently some have tested as fake, and we can spread this news on social media to raise awareness. Clearly, this is very useful. How else would home users instantly find out this sort of information?
For content creators, social media is crucial – at least one quarter of my blog traffic comes directly from Facebook. It provides a platform to share articles with people who might not otherwise realise the blog exists. My Raindrop Therapy article has been shared over 2000 times on Facebook, which is amazing! Social media allows followers to keep up to date with new articles, videos or research (who wants to keep checking a website for updates all the time?)
Another big advantage of social media is the ability to crowdsource opinions. It’s the equivalent of entering a packed room of people and shouting “Hey! Anyone tried this product? What did you think of it?” Obviously, this opinion-sharing can be a double-edged sword (see What’s Not Great?) but it can be useful to hear about others’ experiences. Perhaps you’re interested in a training school and would like to hear from existing students. Or maybe you need ideas about how to reuse empty oil bottles, or where you can purchase specific ingredients. We can learn a lot by sharing our opinions, tips and advice with others. It’s a chance to interact with people we wouldn’t normally meet – even those who live thousands of miles away! This can provide a real sense of community, which is particularly useful if you don’t have any oily friends in real life!
One of my favourite aspects of social media is the opportunity to interact with writers, experts and people who would be otherwise unreachable. Gone are the days of optimistically writing letters that lie unread in an agent’s office somewhere. Now we can tweet them directly, or send a Facebook message. It also gives the “VIPs” the chance to communicate directly with people, by posting a quick video response or status update. We can get the truth straight from the horse’s mouth! A great example is the recent lavender and tea tree hormone scandal – Robert Tisserand quickly set the record straight with a Facebook video. Much more effective than waiting for an official written response to be published via traditional means.
What’s Not Great?
So, what are the downsides of this social media whirl?
Let’s start with the spread of “Fake News” and the way people bandwagon-jump onto it without checking if it’s actually true. The extent of misinformation that proliferates on social media is unbelievable. As I wrote in Why Are Essential Oils Everywhere?, this is not only worrying, but potentially extremely dangerous – particularly in relation to health issues.
I believe everything we see on social media should be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism. Basically, don’t assume anything is true unless you’ve actually researched the facts for yourself. Social media is an attention-seeking game. Everyone is looking for likes, comments, shares, follows, reactions. Anyone can post anything – it doesn’t mean it’s true. When you give everyone the chance to broadcast to the world, the downside is that you’ll end up with a LOT of rubbish. This makes it difficult to wade through and extract quality information.
What else is annoying? The drama; the moaning and whingeing; the vaguebooking; the bitchiness; the nasty comments; the way conversations spiral out of control. In my experience, things tend to get quite nasty on Facebook. The petty rules, the censoring of comments, the exclusion of members…it becomes a giant power trip. I have stepped away from most Facebook groups because life is too short for that kind of drama and negativity.
Tone can be so easily misinterpreted online. Whatever you say will offend somebody somewhere. I feel a lot of negative energy is wasted on social media – if you don’t like someone, don’t follow them! Why start an argument with a stranger? (read more: What to Do When We See Bad Advice)
Social media is here to stay, so there’s no point sticking our heads in the sand. But we can enjoy the advantages of social media without letting it rule our lives. Checking updates can be addictive, and an unproductive use of our time. When our phone beeps with notifications, it’s tempting to check them right away. Recently, I’ve taken a step back from social media and it has felt quite liberating. Most of us could do with a little less drama in our lives. Of course, I’ll still be posting on there and replying to notifications, but I’m taking a more balanced approach. In the past, I’ve felt the pressure of keeping up-to-date with a newsfeed. There’s always that FOMO feeling that you’re missing out on some important news. But, to be honest, I could spend all day answering questions on social media, and I’d never get any real work done! There has to be a point at which we close the app and focus on the real world.
What do you think? Are you addicted to social media?
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